Saturday, July 25, 2009
JOHN DAWSON RIP
"Dilettantes dabbling in the genre of country music have always had a hard time, from hippies like Gram Parsons to his modern day alt-country hipster inheritors. There’s almost always an inevitable anxiety over class privileges and the fetishization of working class experience by cultural elites. That combines with the classic rural versus urban divide and adds up to an awkward night sitting in a bar in Silver Lake listening to delicate, good-looking dudes in fancy vintage Western shirts singing about CB radios and old pickup trucks. It’s airless tribute at best, unaware cowboy drag at worst.
John “Marmaduke” Dawson was the lead singer and main songwriter for The New Riders of the Purple Sage, the best of the hippie country bands that emerged from the West Coast psychedelic rock and rustic folk scenes, and one of the only bands that managed to merge roper with doper without apologies to either camp. He died on Tuesday in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he’d been teaching English as part of the city’s established community of American expatriates. He was 64, and stomach cancer was the culprit."
i don't think anyone from our p'cola group was a fan of nrps. i do know that one of us bought their first album because i remember having it in my hands in philip's cave & liking the cover art more than i liked the music. i don't particularly agree w/the smirky assessment of gram parsons in the quote above. i suspect parsons was the real thing & would still be doing that kind of music(much as emmylou is doing)today.
i will say i'm impressed that nrps kept it up too. they never had the cred that parsons had(tho they were connected w/garcia & the dead for a while)but they stayed as true to their original impulses as anyone. from what i hear, that's not too easy to do in the music biz. i imagine "marmaduke" had few complaints there at the end. he'd gotten to play music for a living his whole life. that's just not a bad way to go.
this song from their debut 1971 eponymous album sounds so much like the parson lead byrds & the dead circa workingman's dead it's uncanny.